Feature Article - September 2004
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Safe and Secure

Health clubs and recreation facilities are excellent hunting grounds for thieves

By Kyle Ryan

Employee theft

Sometimes the people who are supposed to be the good guys aren't; employees, unfortunately, can be a big source of theft in facilities if procedures aren't in place to deal with it. Bouck says it falls into three categories: staff on customer, staff on staff and staff on organization (stealing money, letting people in for free, and so on.)

Preventing theft from the organization has a lot to do with policies and procedures, Bouck says. Money needs to be double and triple checked to make sure nothing is missing. A strong system of checks and balances will make it more difficult to steal.

"In terms of stealing from customers, the same safeguards that we've got to protect customers from each other are going to protect the staff from each other," Bouck says. "What I've heard at least is you're not getting away with too much before you're caught if you're staff who's taking advantage of customers."

When it comes to protecting employees from employees, Bouck suggests having safe places to store their things during work. Consider making it separate from the place where temporary staff would keep their belongings.

  1. Only bring what you need to a club; minimize the amount of cash, credit cards, jewelry and any other valuables that you bring inside.
  2. Don't count on your locker to keep everything safe. Always lock it, no matter what.
  3. Don't leave anything in your car, either, especially in plain view.
  4. Don't leave your things unattended, no matter how briefly. That's the best time to steal them.
  5. Don't ever assume it won't happen to you. It will.
  6. If someone looks suspicious, report it to the staff. Take note of what people look like.
  7. Avoid parking next to big SUVs/trucks at night, as they can cast shadows over smaller cars.
  8. Obey all rules in the code of conduct.

Making it all work

Really, there's only so much anyone can do with a limited time and money and often strained resources. As helpful as it would be to have fingerprint-scanning lockers and tracking devices on children, some things just aren't possible.

Regardless, Bouck suggests facilities take the long view when designing and making decisions on what to use. For example, install conduits in walls during construction so that, should your facility need surveillance cameras in the future, the apparatus for implementing them is already in place.

"We encourage them to spend the money upfront to do things that would make adding them in the future easier," Bouck says.

And if something doesn't work the way it's supposed to, fix it.

"The one thing I've told people is don't be afraid to make changes if the design isn't working for whatever reason," Barton says. "Even if you have a brand-new facility, you may discover pretty quickly that some things just aren't working. You hate to go back and think, 'Oh, we put all this money into this, and it isn't working the way we thought. It doesn't matter. Just go ahead and change it."